Travelers Are Adding a Suitcase of Medical Supplies, Creating Memories
Airlines are weighing in on a growing travel trend: in-flight charity work by passengers. More and more travelers are bringing along an extra suitcase filled with medical supplies to drop off in relevant destinations.
While these volunteers aren’t restricted by age range, this trend appears to mimic the experiential travel movement among Millennials that has hotels adding fashion experiences, emoji room service menus and videos showing cities through the eyes of touring musicians. The New York Times reports that Millennials are willing to pay extra for these experiences. But the extra suitcase trend is instead an opportunity for them to earn a tax deduction.
This trend gives travelers a chance to do some good in the countries they’re visiting; an opportunity more and more vacationers are seizing.
So much so that Not Just Tourists Toronto keeps seeing exponential increases in the number of volunteers, as well as the work they’re doing. According to the organization’s annual reports, fiscal year 2017 ended on June 30 with volunteers dropping off 328 suitcases in 47 countries with 248,000 pounds of medical supplies. The annual report from 2016 showed 416 bags reached 46 countries with 162,000 pounds of supplies; up YOY from 2015 by 136 percent regarding suitcases and by 1,311 percent regarding pounds of medical supplies delivered to countries needing them. (There are many more NJT offices than the one in Toronto, including a U.K. one the Guardian reported about on Oct. 13 that opened in Bristol. There are also many other charitable travel options than NJT.)
“Air Transat, Air Canada and WestJet have all offered waivers for excess baggage to travelers ferrying humanitarian supplies,” the Ottawa Citizen reported on Sept. 15.
Similarly, CNN Travel reports on Oct. 18 that U.S. airlines tend to waive baggage fees for medical supplies.
NJT Toronto tells Target Marketing on Aug. 17 that it, specifically, “collects surplus medical supplies from Canada’s largest hospitals, medical suppliers and patients who have passed away, packs them into suitcases and sends them with vacationing travelers to remote clinics where the supplies are desperately needed. The movement operates without any funding and is fully run by volunteers. The system can be applied anywhere in the world where excess medical supplies exist.”
Avi D'Souza, founder of NJT Toronto, told CNN Travel that the experiential aspect of the charity is on purpose. His charity could just ask for donations to ship the supplies. Instead, he ensures travelers accompany the bags.
D’Souza says to CNN Travel:
"It would be so much easier to send these supplies in a container instead of packing them in to suitcases and liaising with travelers and customs officials," says D'Souza.
"When a traveler takes a suitcase, they inevitably have to speak to local people. We find they have their eyes opened and make connections to these communities and sometimes stay connected to them for the rest of their lives. That's the bigger impact."
What do you think, marketers?
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